Twilight Racing At 2009 E Scow Nationals
12 September 2009
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Another beautiful day in Oshkosh. The National E Scow Fleet sailed out this morning for a 10am start. There was wind and some of the wind was fresh so PRO Blake Middleton was hopeful to get a start in on time. We did notice some of the fleet was slow to move this morning. The party at the Waters last night was rockin' and many stayed out late dancing to a fantastic band! Still, all 46 boats made it out in time for the first start.
After a brief postponement the fleet entered a starting sequence. It was light as the breeze had trouble reaching 5mph. This meant there was one person on the high side, maybe. Just before the start gun there was another postponement as many boats were over the line, many had trouble getting up to the line. It was evident that the fresh breeze that some sailed out in was now fizzling away.
Another attempt by the Race Committee took place as it was very evident that a race needed to be added to this series as the forecast for the remainder of the day was ultra light and the forecast for the final day of the event was not much better. So, with just one race in, the picture was being painted and it was not a pretty one. After another attempt at a start it was clear that there was just not enough wind to get a race in. Blake showed his experience by being patient and waiting - not sticking a bad race into a National Championship Series. Smart!
It was clear that the wind was not coming so our PRO sent the sailors in for shade, water and lunch. In all of his updates Blake was very clear that the fleet needed to be ready to sail at any time and to be ready to sail until dark if needed. Preparations on shore were taking place - a late race was inevitable. Blake was great though - he allowed the fleet to go do what they wanted - simply listen to his updates and be ready to go when the time came.
At 3pm today the time came. Blake asked the powerboats to tow the E fleet out to the race course area in hopes of a race. Wait, there was no wind on the water! What was he thinking?! Blake knew what he was doing. In the weather system we have been presented with we have seen little wind during the day but, we have seen an evening breeze for a week straight. He knew that if the fleet was on the water and ready for the arrival of wind that the fleet could have 2 races.
The breeze moved in and it was a fairly steady 4-8mph. The first race of the day / second race of the series started at 4pm. A clean start and a W2 course but only a .75 mile beat so this put a premium on the start. The fleet was almost evenly split up the first beat. M-9 Tom Burton won the right side of the course and M-42 Sam Rogers won the left side of the course. H-7 Lon Schoor and X-20 Peter Maas were right in the hunt too as the four boats met at the top mark. Lurking just back from this group was Brian Porter and Vincent Porter. The move of the race was an early jibe on the run. I-49 Vincent Porter did this and gained big on this run. New breeze filled down the right side of the race course and Porter was in line for the best stuff. Burton followed with a jibe - still with a healthy lead but in line for the new breeze with Porter.
At the leeward gate many tacked on to starboard to sail the starboard shift. The boats that extended on port really made money on this beat as the wind clocked right slightly with better pressure. Burton kept the lead by Mass and the X-20 team ground them down to be close at the top mark. Lon Schoor and Sam Rogers followed. Because of the clocking breeze it meant that a jibe after the offset was immediate. Burton never missed a beat. He set, jibed and raced down the lake with Maas following. As the leaders continued down the lake Maas decided to throw some jibes in to keep things interesting. Good move however it left the door open for Schoor to sneak in. As Schoor went out to the edge he had better pressure. He jibed and raced into the finish and it was going to be close between Schoor and Maas. Burton had won the race and he and his Inland Championship Team sailed a very good race. It was close for 2/3 but Maas finished off his good race and finished 2. Schoor 3.
The race took a total time of 47 minutes. As the back half of the fleet finished it was clear that the wind was getting fresher. Not quite white caps but really nice breeze. The Oshkosh chop began to build a bit so it was going to be a fun twilight race.
Race 3 of the Championship kicked off at exactly 6pm. Plenty of daylight still. Everyone was hiking now and the few boats that did decided to sail with 4 people in the regatta were smiling. One of the boats was T-17 Chad Hillyer and his Ol' Blue team. They liked the breeze and liked the left side which was clearly favored. Chad is one of the top East Coast E scow teams. The East Coast came west in force for this regatta and they have some excellent sailors. E Scow sailing out there is really buzzing.
Hillyer was leading at the top mark with Bobby Koar right behind him - The Koar family is another fantastic group of E sailors. Jeff Bonanni from Little Egg was right with the leaders too - you see an East Coast theme here. They were kickin' butt. Sam Rogers was in this race again so was Brian Porter, Jeff Solum and Jon Schloesser - a local hero. But where was Tom Burton? He rounded about 15th.
As the fleet jetted downwind with all crew on the high side technique in these boats kicked in and some of the best sailors in the E class closed in on the leaders. Brian Porter had a killer run and put himself in 2/3 at the leeward gate. Hillyer was still winning after a nice run, Rogers was there, Bonanni and Koar were there too and now Burton was in the mix. That's right, after a 15th at the top Burton was in the hunt at the leeward cans. How? Tom and his team of Andy Ferguson and Bruce Martinson are excellent sailors but most importantly they are fundamentally strong. Burton watches the wind, watches his compass and rarely puts his boat in trouble or bad traffic. He is a very smart sailor and smart sailors make big gains in big regattas.
Hillyer fought off the group and rounded the top mark first again. Bonanni and Koar were there but a distance behind and then Rogers kept hanging tough. Not a lot changed on the run or the next beat as Hillyer sailed very smart keeping his competition between him and the finish line. Hillyer took the bullet, Bonanni was second and he sailed an awesome race. Sam Rogers sailed solid to get third in the race. Burton stayed tough and finished fifth.
So, at the end of this day Burton has a nice lead with a 2,1,5 on his scorecard but there is a lot of sailing left - we hope. 9am start tomorrow in hopes of a morning breeze. Another smart move by PRO Blake Middleton. So, after a great party tonight, another fantastic dinner at the Waters and the hand off of the E scow class from Rick Turner to Art Brereton the fleet is ready to crown a new champion tomorrow.
Will it be Burton - will he continue his smart sailing? Or will Rogers or Vincent Porter, Jeff Bonanni and others stage a comeback and steal the championship? We will see. It is the 2009 E scow national championship on Oshkosh - anything can happen!